When a relationship breaks down after a miscarriage
By Danielle Forrester
It’s been exactly two years since my last miscarriage happened and 19 months since our relationship ended. I’d like to say that I’m over it all but I’m not. I still carry heartache for the babies I lost and love for the man I was with, the man who would have been the father of my children.
A quick Google search of “how to cope with a miscarriage” will return hundreds of thousands of results. Have a look at the first few pages and I promise you, not one comes close to doing what it says on the tin. The reality is that there’s no how-to guide for coping with the aftermath of a miscarriage.
Dealing with the isolation, pain, emptiness and despair that you might never be able to have a family of your own…none of that is a one-size-fits-all process. Until you’ve experienced it, you can’t know what it’s like to lay there looking at the ceiling as the sonographer presses down on your uterus. You can’t know how you’ll feel when the silence is broken by their agitated, heavy breathing, knowing that it’s because they’re searching desperately for a child who has already gone.
Nothing can prepare you for the days that lead up to the moment of the miscarriage.
The blood loss.
The birthing of a sac no bigger than your hand. It can take days, even weeks to occur and the memory of it will likely haunt you. Birthing. That must seem like an odd choice of word to describe it, but at around the twelve week mark, that’s exactly what happens. The cramps grow closer, more intense. In the hour before I passed my baby, I was on the floor crying. Crying through the pain. Crying through the realisation of what was happening. Just crying.
Nobody — not even you — can anticipate how you and your partner will cope when your pregnancy ends suddenly. With each loss it became clear that our relationship was crumbling beyond saving. It wasn’t because I didn’t love him or need him. We were two halves of a sinking ship and I don’t believe either of us had any fight left to save it.
When you find out you’re expecting, you give your heart to your pregnancy, to your baby, and when theirs stopped beating, a piece of yours dies with them. By the third miscarriage, no amount of love could fill the gaping hole left behind in our relationship. Muddling through the days and months that follow becomes the norm and you try your best to play the part at work, with family, around friends.
Nothing is the same.
It’s a battle to care about anything you used to when you’re grieving. It consumes you. It takes hold of you from the inside. Maintaining the façade demands every scrap of energy you have and your only escape is when you’re home alone. There you can feel what you’re feeling. Cry, scream, fall to pieces, switch off completely. There you can just be without worrying how uncomfortable your pain makes others feel.
That escape doesn’t last. Your partner comes home and you do what you can to pull yourself together, to pretend neither of you is falling apart inside.
For us it became a cycle that never seemed to end.
So many of these how-to guides say how important it is to let your partner in and acknowledge their grief is valid, too. Even now it makes me mad to read because it isn’t that straightforward. There were three sets of grief in motion: his, mine, and ours. We needed to deal with each in different ways and this, I’m sure, was a massive contributor to our undoing. He couldn’t face talking about it and I needed to. I needed to know it had all been real, that they had been real. Clinging to the hope that our relationship might survive, I shut down. I tried keeping it to myself, crying when I was alone. That doesn’t work forever, it just made the distance between us all the more obvious.
At the time I wrote:
“I don’t know who I am anymore. My friends have disappeared. The only thing I can face doing is shoving my joggers on and numbing my mind with something, anything on TV. Our relationship is damaged. We’ve gotten good at turning our backs on everything and ignoring what has happened, pretending it never did. Deep down we know the truth though; we know what we’re doing and why we do it. Despite it all we’ll continue. We’ve built a silent wall between ourselves and our issues…for me it’s the only way I can protect myself and survive.
I no longer want to be a mother, I need it. The need has become incessant, insidious, it’s taken over every aspect of my life. My pregnant colleagues want to talk about their aches, their scans and their babies, and though it hurts me to hear, I encourage them to do so. Is it self-destructive? Should I say nothing at all? I go back and forth between bottling my thoughts up and then purging my story onto anyone that will listen.
Every day is a struggle between acting ‘normal’ and wanting the world to know that I should be a mother, I should have my babies with me.”
God, I wish I’d let him in.
I wish I’d supported him and done more than just be taken over by my own grief. For a long time after, I blamed myself for how it ended. I questioned how much I’d done to save our relationship and how I’d been so selfish to put my own feelings before his. The truth is it’s impossible to save someone else from drowning when you’re fighting to stay afloat yourself.
Sometimes love isn’t enough.
My story is just one shared as part of the promotional campaign for Love And She, a romantic drama about a couple’s relationship after a miscarriage. To join the campaign and have your story heard, email email@example.com.